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May 6, 2015

Unusual landing approach questioned in fatal Bloomington plane crash

Shortly after midnight on April 7, 2015, a Cessna 414A carrying seven men returning from the NCAA Final Four championship game in Indianapolis crashed into a field approximately two miles east of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington. Along with pilot Thomas Hileman, the plane’s passengers included Illinois State University associate men's basketball coach Torrey Ward and deputy athletic director Aaron Leetch, and passengers Terry Stralow, Woodrow “Jason” Jones, Scott Bittner and Andrew Butler.

According to the NTSB preliminary report released on April 16, 2015, the pilot of the 1980 twin-engine plane reported no complications or concerns during the flight. After receiving final landing clearance from the air traffic approach controller, however, the plane began a series of climbs and descents between 1,500 and 2,000 feet, ultimately veering to the east before crashing.

“For a plane to maintain a good rate of climb, both engines must be working, so investigators will likely look for any possible malfunctions in the instrumentation, although that may be difficult considering the damage to the plane,” said Motley Rice aviation attorney Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General and aviation analyst for CNN. “Another question they’ll need to answer is why the plane turned east, as pilots turn the other direction if they need to abandon an approach and circle back around for a second attempt.”

Unfortunately, there is no voice recorder system for Cessna 414As.

At the time of the crash, visibility at the airport was approximately half-a-mile with light rain, fog and a low overcast ceiling at about 200 feet above ground level.

Motley Rice aviation attorneys will continue to follow the developments surrounding this crash.